In the digital age of education, New Britain public schools want students to be savvy about online safety. On Tuesday, all fifth- and sixth-grade students in the district were bused to New Britain High School for a tech talk.
Supt. Nancy Sarra, of New Britain public schools, said the idea for the forum sparked after concerned parents and teachers noticed online conversations and actions making an impact on the classroom.
“When there are disagreements among students, it’s beyond now just one setting here in the classroom,” Sarra said. “It’s spilling over into social media.”
Scott Driscoll, of Internet Safety Concepts, is a former law enforcement officer who knows the darkest corners of the web as well as anyone and he led the forum.
“I spent about 10 years as a 13-year-old girl on the internet, arresting predators and pedophiles all over this country,” Driscoll said. “So when I speak to them, it’s not a lecture. It’s first-hand experience. I was you online.”
Driscoll said he knows where children are most vulnerable online and how they behave. One of his messages to students is reminding them of the power they have to say no to something as simple as a friend request.
“Just because we share a school hallway doesn’t mean we’re friends and have to continue our communications outside,” Driscoll says. “You don’t have to explain anything to anyone. It’s protecting yourself and making it comfortable for you.”
Driscoll said parents need to do their own homework and research about what’s on your kids’ screens and how these apps work.
“I think for parents, the first thing they do is sit down and say, ‘What are you doing? Let me look at your phone. Let’s talk about it.’ Doesn’t have to be that we’re taking everything away from them, but let’s talk about and understand what our kids are using,” he said.
Driscoll encourages parents to tell their children how social media is meant to be positive. You can reinforce how they use their devices by making them sign contracts, or having them use the acronym “SAFE” when taking a photo, which means to be Sure it’s Appropriate For Everyone.
“We know they’re going to use technology,” he said. “It’s been given to them. Now we have to give them the skills so they can use them in the right way,” he said.
Seventh and eighth graders will take part in a similar assembly forum in two weeks.
Parents in the district will also have their own presentation. Driscoll offers more tools for parents and their children when it comes to online safety at www.InternetSafetyConcepts.com